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UEFA Nations League: Back to Kaliningrad


UEFA Nations League: Back to Kaliningrad

Russia vs Sweden

It was one of the big venues at Russia 2018, hosting some of the world’s finest teams including Spain, England, Belgium and Croatia. And now, we’re back to Kaliningrad this week for the UEFA Nations League.

This may not look like the most glamorous of international games, but remember, these are two World Cup quarter-finalists we are talking about. And the world of football in Russia is barely recognisable from the product pre-2018, which was characterised by drudgery on the pitch and menace off it. But a World Cup in which the nation got behind a team which over-achieved momentously has made all the difference.

Sweden had an excellent World Cup, too. The new dawn of Swedish football, post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic, saw Janne Andersson’s side reach the quarter-finals to match their hosts.

These are early days in Europe’s newest international competition, but Russia have made the better start in SBOBET Nations League Group B2. Both teams have played Turkey; but while Stanislav Cherchesov’s team won, the Swedes suffered a reverse on home soil.

Talking Points

Russia have certainly enjoyed a re-birth during and following World Cup 2018, seemingly transformed from a pedestrian and limited side to a dangerous attacking force. Who can forget the curtain-raising 5-0 destruction of Saudi Arabia with the previously little known Denis Cheryshev scoring a fantastic double?

And that feat was only surpassed by Russia’s penalty shoot-out win against Spain, dumping one of the pre-tournament favourites out in the knockout stage.

He still doesn’t have household names to call on, but Cherchesov has developed his side into a more ambitious group of players, hammering the Czech Republic 5-1 immediately after their triumph against Turkey. Artem Dzyuba, the 6ft-5in giant, became a folk hero at the World Cup. Along with Cheryshev, he was on target against Turkey in the Nations League opener. And then, Aleksei Ionov scored twice in the September destruction of the Czech Republic.

So Andersson’s defence is sure to come under some scrutiny on Thursday night. Having led 2-0 against Turkey last month, two goals in the dying minutes turned victory to defeat in the blink of an eye. That level of generosity simply isn’t what we have come to expect from the Swedes. Goalkeeper Robin Olsen had a superb World Cup which earned him a high-profile move to Serie A giants Roma. And Manchester United’s centre-back Victor Lindelof seems to be gaining confidence.

Emil Forsberg scored the goal in a tight game against Switzerland to fire the plucky Swedes into the quarter-finals at World Cup 2018, where a clash with England’s young guns proved to be a step too far. And while compact play and discipline have always been a characteristic of Sweden’s team, Marcus Berg up front is a big presence alongside Forsberg, so they, too, carry a goal threat.

This looks like a well-matched game to me, and it could go either way, so make sure you keep up with the UEFA Nations League 2018 updates right here at SBOBET.

History

Reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup was the best result either team has had in over half a century, so both have reasons to be cheerful. But the visitors arrive on the back of a three-match losing run, starting with that World Cup quarter-final defeat to England, while Russia have those two big September wins fresh in the memory.

Russia have had the better of recent meetings too, winning two and drawing two. While the visitors are 31 places above their hosts in the FIFA rankings at 15th, home advantage and a growing momentum give Russia the edge, according to the latest UEFA Nations League 2018 odds.

Neither team has drawn in the last seven games with Russia winning five and losing two, while Sweden have won three and lost four.

Betting Tip

Draw @ 3.20

So I’m going for a well-fought draw! Home side Russia are favourites to win at 2.10, with Sweden at 3.40. While I can see both sides scoring, I don’t anticipate either running away with the game. The hosts carry the more potent attacking threat but, to counter that, Olsen is a fine keeper behind a well-organised Sweden defence.

With Sweden at 1.82 to win with a +0.50 start and Russia at 2.11 with that handicap. If there is a positive result either way, then it’s more than likely to be by a single goal.

And if not, then 1-1 at 5.40 looks good to me.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.




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